Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 9, 2014

Blast levels empty Kalkaska County home

MANCELONA — A blast obliterated an unoccupied home on Little Twin Lake's shore and sent a shock wave over the water and across rural Kalkaska County.

Blue Lake Township Fire Chief Bob Barr said no one reported injuries from the Thursday morning explosion. Investigators suspect a natural gas leak is to blame, but haven't identified a specific cause.

The blast left debris from the 6338 Little Twin Lake Road home strewn across yards, hanging from treetops and floating in the lake's waters.

"It was a significant blast," Barr said.

Dave Mahan is associate director at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, which sits near the northeast shore of Big Twin Lake. He had just opened the institute's door to let in some warm spring air when the house exploded on the west edge of Little Twin Lake.

"'Boom,' an explosion went off and the ground shook," he said. "I immediately thought it was a gas explosion and it had to be nearby ... rarely have I experienced an explosion that I can feel in my feet."

Mahan said he drove Barr, a retired Au Sable employee who happened to be at the institute when the blast occurred, to pick up his fire gear and then to the ruined home.

"There's very little left of the house. It literally blew up," Mahan said.

Four local township fire departments -- Blue Lake, Bear Lake, Coldsprings-Excelsior and Kalkaska -- responded to the blast and put out a fire. Kalkaska County sheriff's deputies also assisted.

A neighboring home about 15 feet away had a yawning hole in its side. Barr said several other neighboring homes had cracked windows or mirrors.

"We don't know what exactly caused the explosion. At this point, the assumption is it has to be natural gas to get that kind of explosion," he said.

Barr said investigators would have to find what sparked the explosion if natural gas is to blame.



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